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Tag Archives: Clint Eastwood

American Sniper

Chris Kyle (played by Bradley Cooper) dreams of being a Cowboy – that’s all he’s ever wanted to do. He’s a born Texan, he’s grown up in a religious family in Texas and he lives for the Cowboy lifestyle. When he’s just a boy of 8 years old, his daddy Wayne, (by Ben Reed) teaches him to hunt and shoot. He loves it and he’s a natural … a real “dead-eye”. As an adult, he gives the Rodeo a go for a while, but he gets injured and retires too early from it, feeling totally unfulfilled. His life lacks something – he needs a way to really use his talent. In September 2001, he watches as the Twin Towers fall in New York City and he decides he can put his talent to good use by helping America in the global fight against terrorism. He joins the Navy and trains as a SEAL. While he’s at training camp, he meets Taya (by Sienna Miller) and they marry just as he’s called to his first Tour of Duty in Iraq. He soon gets a name for himself as the best sniper in the military. He gallantly serves his country over four Tours and he receives several commendations for his actions and heroism. Throughout the conflict, he observes the horrors of this warfare and watches with utter disbelief and sadness as his squad buddies are wounded or killed. Between Tours, although he thinks he’s doing fine, his wife can see he’s changing and starting to withdraw. He never speaks of his experiences and she can’t get through to him. In 2009, he is honourably discharged and he writes a memoir about his experiences. He finds solace through helping other returned servicemen work through their own emotions – until one day in 2013 when he attends a shooting range near Chalk Mountain in Texas and is shot dead by a veteran Marine.

This true story is based on Chris Kyle’s bestselling 2012 autobiography, “American Sniper”. The director, Clint Eastwood, has depicted Kyle very well in this movie – the scenes of his work as a military sniper are particularly gripping. Bradley Cooper’s performance is compelling as the crack-shot who seems to take it all in his stride – he appears to think nothing of taking another life in defence of his brave fellow countrymen. He goes about his “business” with a steely gaze and a solid determination. It’s as if he’s born to do this and will stop at nothing as long as there’s still a person alive who threatens a US hero. At the 2015 Academy Awards presentation, the movie won the award for Best Sound Editing. It also won an AFI for Movie of the Year and received BAFTA nominations for Best Film, Screenplay and Sound. In my opinion, the movie is too long and could be told in much less time, but overall it’s an interesting piece and he’s a fascinating person.

Made in 2014. Directed by Clint Eastwood.

 
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Posted by on June 18, 2015 in Movies

 

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Jersey Boys

It’s the 1950’s and four young men are growing up and finding their places in the tough world of New Jersey. They’re streetwise, cocky, small time crooks, who are sometimes too aggressive and “devil may care” for their own good. Mostly though, all they want to do is sing and play music. They hang out together and are supremely loyal to each other. They form a singing group “The Four Lovers” then gradually become “The Four Seasons” lead by the unique voice of Franki Valli (played by John Lloyd Young), with Tommy DeVito (by Vincent Piazza), Nick Massi (by Michael Lomenda) and the outstanding song-writing talent of Bob Gaudio (by Erich Bergen). They get a recording contract and then record a few songs. Soon their music takes off and they become an international sensation. But relationships in the group become strained and their success isn’t enough to keep them going strong. The band faces challenges brought about by gambling debt, Mafia involvement and family tragedy. The future of the Four Seasons will depend on the strength of trust and respect between the members.

This movie sticks pretty faithfully to the storyline and direction of the Tony Award winning stage show “Jersey Boys”. It depicts the true story of the rise to fame of the singing group, The Four Seasons. The story is told through the eyes and commentary of Tommy DeVito and supported by a great soundtrack of their string of hits through the years. It’s an entertaining movie with solid performances by all involved. Christopher Walken plays Gyp DeCarlo strongly and overall the cast is well selected. The only tiny negative point comes when the Four Seasons are inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990, the “aged” makeup is dreadful. Overall it’s an enjoyable movie.

Made in 2014. Directed by Clint Eastwood.

 
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Posted by on January 16, 2015 in Movies

 

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Invictus

Francois Pienaar (played by Matt Damon) is a rugby player – but not just any old rugby player – he’s the captain of the national rugby team of South Africa – the Springboks. In 1993, his team faces a challenging time ahead. South Africa is to be the host nation of the 1995 Rugby World Cup in only eighteen months’ time and the Springboks currently languish at the bottom of the world’s elite league. At the same time, Nelson Mandela (by Morgan Freeman) has just been released from prison after 27 years as a political prisoner who challenged and fought his entire life against apartheid. Mandela has quickly ascended to become the democratically elected President of the nation and he is focussed on radical change for South Africa. This is a significant challenge for such a divided country He loves rugby and endears himself to many through his support of the national game. One day Mandela meets Pienaar – through his wisdom and courage developed over years of hardship and incarceration, he inspires Francois to work hard to lead the team back to world class rugby standards once again, to really put South Africa on the global stage – both in sports and the broader political landscape. The 1995 World Cup arrives and the entire country holds its breath in the hope that the Springboks can do it for South Africa …

This is a good sports movie – if you’re expecting a political drama, you won’t get it here – but you will get an excellent introduction to this highly complex nation and the issues surrounding their political landscape. As Nelson Mandela, Morgan Freeman takes on an almighty challenge, but he really does it justice. His performance is excellent. To have the courage and confidence to emulate such a great man in world significance is marvellous and to be applauded. As Francois Pienaar, Matt Damon is good here too, thankfully his character shows a lot more depth than the grit and determination required to become an elite footballer, which is appreciated. Overall, the story is lightweight on the political issues, but you get the idea. The drama is in the sport, which is done quite well. There are interesting sequences of rugby, but – being a Kiwi and an All Blacks fan from birth – it doesn’t really seem authentic to me. However, the majority of the audience should find it interesting. The interactions between the other staff members who are getting to grips with the new ways of the Mandela Administration are interesting to watch and several performances are worthwhile here – but again, the outcome is more worthy of a television drama than a movie. It’s okay, but it wasn’t until later I realised that this was directed by Clint Eastwood. I have seen several other movies that demonstrate better work from him in my opinion (such as Mystic River“, “The Changelingand “Million Dollar Baby”). For their performances, in 2010 Morgan Freeman and Matt Damon earned Academy Award (Oscar) nominations for their leading and support roles. They also received Golden Globe nominations for this work and Clint Eastwood was nominated for Best Director.  Oh, and … in case you are wondering … Invictus is Latin – it means unconquered, unconquerable and undefeated – it might refer to the state of overcoming and taking control of a place or its people.

Made in 2009. Directed by Clint Eastwood.

 
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Posted by on December 15, 2013 in Movies

 

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Trouble with the Curve

Gus (played by Clint Eastwood) is a baseball talent scout – baseball has been his entire life and he’s been a scout for the Atlanta Braves since before anyone can remember. He’s starting to feel his age and his club is seeing it too … they wonder whether he’s really up to the task anymore – he’s always had a great eye for talent in the past, but has he still got it? Gus is grumpy .. his eyesight’s failing him and he’s irritated about that – he can’t see very well to drive and he’s worried that technology is going to take what’s left of his enjoyment of his career, so he doesn’t let his shortcomings show – or so he thinks.  His long time friend and colleague, Pete (by John Goodman) can see it and encourages Gus to think about taking it easy, but he won’t have a bar of it.  Instead, Pete persuades Gus’s high-flying lawyer daughter Mickey (by Amy Adams) to accompany him on his latest “scout run” to North Carolina to find the next big baseball thing, but that’s really the last place Gus wants his daughter …..

This movie is okay. Unfortunately I have been spolt by the unquestioned excellence of Clint Eastwood’s directorial work in  “Gran Torino”, “Mystic River”, “Unforgiven”, “Million Dollar Babies”, “The Changeling” (and even “Bridges of Madison County” to a point) over recent years, so I sort of anticipated more of the same wonderful stuff – I was wrong. I understand that this movie is directed by Eastwood’s protege, Robert Lorenz, so that’s my mistake to anticipate his own work – but unfortunately, Eastwood has been typecast into the cantankerous role he’s played a few times lately and it’s getting a little tired. However, the relationship portrayed between himself and Mickey is very well done – in these portions, Eastwood displays some remarkable sensitivity which is great to see.  Amy Adams is very good (and beautiful) as Mickey, but I can’t tell whether Justin Timberlake (he plays Johnny) is acting or just being himself, but he seems very natural here.  John Goodman’s role is done very well, he’s very nice in this. Overall it’s a nice movie, but not a stunner.

Made in 2012.  Directed by Robert Lorenz

 
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Posted by on December 10, 2012 in Movies

 

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Mystic River

Jimmy Markum (played by Sean Penn), Sean Devine (by Kevin Bacon) and Dave Boyle (by Tim Robbins) were childhood friends near Mystic River in Boston. Now adults, Jimmy and Dave both still live locally – Jimmy runs a local grocery store and has had a stretch in jail but he’s been out for a while now – he’s raised his three children in the area; Dave is living with his wife and son nearby; but Sean has moved away and is a detective in the NYPD. The apple of Jimmy’s eye, his 19 year old daughter, Katie (by Emmy Rossum), is brutally murdered in the neighbourhood and Jimmy is heartbroken. Sean is assigned to the case with his partner, Whitey Powers (Laurence Fishburne). As the investigation unfolds, Dave appears to be the prime suspect and receives more and more focus from the police. His world begins to crumble as the attention brings painful memories from his youth to the surface once again – 25 years before, the three boys were playing in the street when suddenly Dave was abducted by two men with police badges. He was subjected to days of sexual abuse before he escaped and the trauma has haunted him ever since. Dave’s wife Celeste (by Marcia Gay Harden) has supported him through all his troubles but she’s frightened by his moodiness and depression. Jimmy’s wife Annabeth (by Laura Linney), is devoted to Jimmy but is dealing with her own grief, so she is a bit keener to see a resolution. Sean has moved away from the area to get away from the psychological stress surrounding Dave’s abduction but he has an estranged and emotionally damaged wife, who calls him but never says anything. He loves her and vainly hopes they might be able to reconcile. Jimmy is enraged and is not dealing with any of this very well – he is determined to find his daughter’s killer and deal with him before the cops find him.

Once again, Clint Eastwood delivers a magnificent movie here. The performances are marvellous and the depiction of these damaged characters is superb. Sean Penn is brilliant as the intense Jimmy, Kevin Bacon brings the isolated Sean to life and Tim Robbins is magnificent as the quiet and secretive Dave. Very well done Laura Linney also. Mystic River seems a scary, moody and risky place to be and the entire movie (cinematography, music, characters and dialogue) permeates this into your senses as you watch. It is totally compelling and just haunting.

The movie is based on the 2001 bestseller by Dennis Lehane,  At the 2003 Academy (Oscar) Awards, Sean Penn won the Award for Best Actor in a Leading Role and Tim Robbins received the Award for Best Actor in a Supporting Role. 

Made 2003. Directed by Clint Eastwood

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2012 in Movies

 

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The Changeling

On a day in 1928 in Los Angeles, a 9 year old boy disappears. All his single mother Christine Collins (played by Angelina Jolie) knows is that she returned home from work that day and her son was gone. She immediately calls the police who start to search for the boy.  After five months, a boy who fits Walter’s description is found interstate and when he says he is Walter, he is returned to Christine with huge media frenzy. When the boy arrives back in LA to reunite with his mother he is met by flash-bulbs, newspapers, police and public officials.  But … Christine is quite sure this boy is not her son. She is insistent, but the police are not interested, presuming she is just hysterical from the shock of the experience. She keeps on with this and as the weeks go by local pastor Gustav Briegleb (by John Malkovich) starts a campaign to fight police incompetence and corruption and she is grateful for his support as she seeks to right this wrong … so the police and government try to intimidate her into silence. They try very hard indeed – many people would buckle under this sustained pressure over such a long period, but Christine’s resolve is strong.  At the same time, another boy has been found at a country property elsewhere who has his own horrific tale to tell of his treatment there. Could this lead to finding Walter?

This is a very well told, gripping, horrific and tense true story and it is a beautifully made move by Clint Eastwood. He is just a great director and movie maker – he manages it without wizardry, just good solid acting, great photography and excellent mood-setting. This is one of the best performances from Angelina Jolie that I’ve seen. John Malkovich, as always, is very good as Pastor Briegleb.

 
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Posted by on February 16, 2012 in Movies

 

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Million Dollar Baby

Frankie Dunn (played by Clint Eastwood) is a boxing trainer of many years. He now owns a gym but he has very few proteges as his training approach is cautious. In fact, we watch as a fighter with potential leaves his charge in favour of another trainer prepared to take more chances. Maggie Fitzgerald (by Hilary Swank) has been interested in boxing for some time and she calls into the gym hoping to get an opportunity to box seriously. Of course, at first Frankie won’t take Maggie on – he thinks she’s too old and he doesn’t train female boxers! His boxing mate, former fighter and his gym manager, Eddie Dupris (by Morgan Freeman) sees potential in Maggie’s eagerness and ambition and he supports her. Gradually, Frankie reluctantly agrees to help her and Maggie transforms into a successful boxer.

This movie is much more than just another “boxer makes good” story. Once the plot is developed, the movie actually takes quite a significant turn – one least expected by me – which creates a completely different aspect to the characters and the story.  These three actors are marvellous – Clint Eastwood plays a vulnerable character, alienated from his only daughter – he is so wonderful here. Hilary Swank is usually good and here she is exceptional,as a girl searching for more than just boxing success and Morgan Freeman is as subtle as ever in his support – very well done. The “mood” is very well captured and depicted throughout.

Once again, this confirms that Clint Eastwood has marvellous talent as a director. The film is beautifully directed, shot impeccably and supported by a great musical score that underscores the humanity in the intensely moving conclusion.  Very very good movie.

(Made: Feb 2005)

 
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Posted by on February 14, 2012 in Movies

 

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